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Commentary by Minister G

January 10, 2003

Title:  Storm Warning

 
     The National Championship game between Ohio State and Miami was truly a classic.  As I watched a sea of red cover the field after the Buckeye victory, I realized that Miami football belongs on the same pedestal as the Yankees, Cowboys, and Duke basketball.  In victory or defeat these teams add a special quality to the magnitude of championship games.  In other words, most people either love 'em or hate 'em. 
     As a Miami fan, I've witnessed the highs and lows of Hurricane football.  I've relished five national championships, and I've survived harsh loses to Penn State, Alabama, and Notre Dame.  During these loses I've seen Miami outplayed, overconfident, and even sloppy.  I was always frustrated and discouraged at the end of these games.  As Miami QB Ken Dorsey's 4th down pass fell incomplete during the second overtime, another Miami loss became official.  But, unlike previous defeats, two conflicting feelings rushed over me:  pride and emptiness. 
     This game had everything necessary for a great game.  Emotion.  Intensity.  David and Goliath.  Ohio State's defense dominated the game and forced five turnovers.  Miami seemed to be playing back on their heels the entire game. Yet, despite a devastating injury to their best player, Miami managed to push the game to OT.  Miami then seized what little momentum they had and went ahead 24-17.  After an amazing 4th down conversion, the game was set at 4th and 3.  Then, as history will have it, what followed was the most controversial and, quite frankly, poor pass interference call I can ever remember.  Ohio State ball on the one yard line.
 
Game.  Set.  Match.  Winner:  Ohio State.
 
     It will surely be argued that Miami had another overtime series to win the championship, but anyone who truly understands the nature of sports instinctively knew the game was over.  Regardless of the game, it's hard for any team to fight from behind and maintain the momentum.  Remarkably, Miami did.  Stunningly, for the briefest moment it appeared that Miami had survived a brawl with Ohio State and was the last man standing. 
 
Six seconds later.  Pass interference from a back judge who admitted he had to think twice about the call.  4th and 3.  National title on the line.  A terrible call.  Game over.  
 
     Some will argue that call was poetic justice for bad calls earlier in the game.  Ridiculous.  This penalty was one based upon the style of play, and the officials must be consistent.  This official was not.  Sports fans are always told that games are never determined by one play.  Yet love for the underdog, memories of Hurricane arrogance, and a desire not to taint a classic will never admit the obvious:  this was the exception.
 
Somewhere I can hear William Devane crying; "Let them play!  Let them play!"
 
The last time a referee changed the outcome of a game this magnitude,  the 1972 USA Olympic Basketball team refused to pick up their silver medals. 
 
I have tremendous respect for Ohio State.  Their defense was awesome.  Craig Krenzel's performance was brilliant.  Jim Tressell is the new 'Bear' Bryant.  Ohio State is a worthy national champion.
 
I'm not saying Miami should have won the game.
 
Miami did win the game.
 
And winning a second consecutive national title has never felt so empty. 

 

August 12, 2002

Confessions of a Red Sox Fan

I like the Red Sox.  I don't like the Yankees.  It's nothing personal.  That's just the way it has to be.  I am not biased.  I'm just honest.
     I was recently driving to New Jersey from a weekend in Upstate N.Y.  As my wife was peacefully reading a book in the passenger seat, I decided to turn on the radio.  Actually, I listened to WFAN (the fan) New York.  WFAN is primarily sports talk radio for all the New York diehards.  In truth, I revel in the opportunity to listen to the countless Big Apple jackasses who jump the Nets bandwagon one minute and then demand Mo Vaughn be on the first train to Tampa Bay the next.  Those New York fans can be heartless bastards.
     Earlier in the day, Ozzie Smith had been inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  The radio show was asking the question; 'Who's the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame?'  The first caller suggested Jim Kaat which was met with praise from both radio hosts.  A second caller then suggested Don Mattingly.  There was a pause for a moment.  Then one host asked the other; 'When you hear the name Don Mattingly, do you sense greatness?'  
 
Another pause...
 
'No.'
 
The host who then originally asked the question replied; 'Me neither.'
 
I nearly pulled to the side of the road in shock and, truthfully, a little disappointment...
my wife continued to read in silence.
 
Don Mattingly was a great baseball player.  Yes, this is a confession of Red Sox fan.  As a loyal fan of Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens, Mattingly was the guy I loved to hate.  I hated him because he was a Yankee, and I hated him because he wasn't a Red Sox.  In the mid 80's Don Mattingly was a great baseball player.
 
In reality, the Hall of Fame has become measured by many factors:  numbers, impact on the game, and even sympathy.  There should be one measure of the Hall of Fame and it is measured by neither numbers or public sentiment.  The Hall of Fame comes down to one intangible alone:  greatness.  Mattingly had it.  In the mid-eighties there was no better player.
 
Sadly, the Hall has become a numbers game (see Don Sutton).  The Hall has also become a sentimental pantry for good players who had long careers (see Phil Niekro).  In all likelihood, Raphael Palmeiro will hit 500 home runs.  In all likelihood, Raphael Palmeiro will someday be given serious consideration for the Hall.  In hindsight, people will comment that Palmeiro was one of baseball's most underrated players...but do you see greatness when Palmeiro steps in the batter's box?  Me neither.
 
If Mattingly is to be kept out of the Hall of Fame, let it be due to a shortened career.  The case can probably be made that Mattingly didn't have the longevity.  I can accept that.  But don't use the excuse of greatness or lack thereof.  It doesn't apply in this case.  I'll always remember Mattingly's parting words after the Yankees lost a tough series to the Mariners; a series in which Mattingly put up excellent numbers.  After that game, Mattingly said; 'It's hard, but we left it on the field.'  He held his head high.  I was never so proud to hate the Yankees in all my life.
 
Ironically, it seems fitting that the national pastime, whose P.R. is worse than Worldcom, will hesitate to put 'Donny Baseball' in the Hall.  Here's one vote for Mattingly.  A great ball player who I loved to hate. 

Patriot Games

2/6/02   

  It was early September.  I was enjoying a little r&r off the coast of
Maine.  I turned on the t.v. to watch the opening Sunday of the NFL season. 
Due to regional coverage, I was forced to watch the New England Patriots
play the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals won the game.  I remember thinking
to myself that the Patriots were one of the worst teams I had ever seen. 
Worse than the Panthers.  Worse than the Cowboys.  New England was so dismal
I think the Houston Texans would have been more competitive.  They were
awful.
     In hindsight, this is what makes New England's Super Bowl victory so
compelling to me.  There has been a lot of speculation concerning where this
Super Bowl ranks.  The other candidates mentioned are the Jets-Colts,
Bills-Giants, 49ers-Bengals, and the Rams-Titans just to name a few.  These
aforementioned games are all worthy candidates, especially Jets-Colts, but
with all due respect, competitively as well as historically Super Bowl XXXVI
is the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
     Unlike the '99 Rams who came out of nowhere and sizzled the entire
season, the Patriots were really bad during the season.  The team's story is
well documented:  the benching of Drew Bledsoe to the starting of unheralded
Tom Brady, the head case known as Terry Glenn, the death of their QB Coach
in the off-season.  But the team's history only scratches the surface. 
Every Super Bowl team has a story.  The Patriots had a classic, not to
mention controversial, playoff game against the Raiders in Foxboro.  They
upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh and entered the Super Bowl as 14 point
dogs.
     At this point, someone will naturally argue that the Jets were 18 point
underdogs against the Colts.  This is cannot be disputed.  I believe that
solely within the context of the historical landscape of the NFL the
Jets-Colts Super Bowl is the greatest of all time.  But Super Bowl XXXVI
transcended this landscape.  In the future, it will undoubtedly be
romanticized, but the setting and the conditions under which Super Bowl
XXXVI was played was unlike any other.  In truth, the country is at war. 
Security was tighter than ever before.  Historically speaking, there has
been no bigger Super Bowl.  And, yes, it is fitting, appropriate, ironic
(Choose any word) that the 'Patriots' should win this one.
     Some will argue the game was boring until the fourth quarter.  Was game
7 of the Series between the Twins and the Braves boring because it was a
great pitchers duel?  Anyone who honestly believes this either doesn't
understand the game or isn't a true fan of the sport.  Super Bowl XXXVI was
defensive in nature, and the game was a chess match between coaches Mike
Martz and Bill Belichick.  Belichick won.
     Lastly, I have never witnessed a Super Bowl when the underdog team that
won the game was just as much of an enigma after the victory.  I was forced
to listen to Kordell Stewart explain how 'sometimes the best team doesn't
always win' after he threw two interceptions against the Pats, and I heard
the Rams Torry Holt state how for some reason the Rams 'chose tonight to not
finish plays' after his team lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  This
type of attitude even exists in the media.  Rick Reilly, the acclaimed
writer of Sports Illustrated, said giving Pats QB Tom Brady the Super Bowl
MVP was ridiculous.  Reilly said that Brady was okay and made a couple of
plays, but he 'played like a second year quarterback.'  Um, well, he is.
     Like Stewart, it's often been said that the best team doesn't always
win.  Thankfully, that didn't happen this year.  The New England Patriots
proved they are the best team in football by winning the greatest Super Bowl
ever.

 

 

"Foreign Policy" 12/18/01

     Like many people across the country, I watched with a great sense of sadness as a number of Cleveland Browns fans littered the field with beer bottles following a controversial call by the officials. From a football
standpoint, the Browns got screwed.  The blunder of the enitre officiating team, in all likelihood, cost the Browns the game.  Having said this, the reaction of many Browns fans was reprehensible.  Their behavior simply cannot be defended.  

     Enter Browns President Carmen Policy and owner Al Lerner.  If the fans were reprehensible, then comments of the organization were utterly incomprensible.  When asked about the conduct of Cleveland fans, Policy got defensive and proclaimed he was glad their fans cared about the game.  What?  Despite the fact that hundreds of glass bottles, forget this plastic jargon, were thrown at officals, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and even players for the Cleveland Browns, Policy didn't think Cleveland should 'get a black eye' for this incident.  What? While Policy's remarks were unsettling, Al Lerner's were absolutely
dumbfounding.  When trying to define the violent emotions of the fans, Lerner said it wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't WWIII either.  What?

     While trying to evaluate this situation, I believe two reminders are sorely needed:  1)The cold hard truth is the United States is currently in a war.  2)Football is a game.  As much as it pains me to admit, the world of
professional sports consists of wealthy men playing a game.  Period.  Despite Policy's day late effort at spin control, both he and Lerner should be ashamed of themselves.  This has nothing to do with being a good team
president or a winning owner.  This is about acting like responsible adults.   Policy and Lerner are neither.
     Let's be honest for a moment.  If Dan Duquette, Jerry Jones, or George Steinbrenner made similar comments, their prospective positions in the league would surely be questioned.  When Bud Selig was explaining to Congress the financial difficulties of Major League Baseball,  Jesse Ventura responded
that the owners didn't get rich by being stupid.  At the time, I agreed. After listening to Policy and Lerner make blatant asses out of themselves, I'm not so sure.
 

   

"Twin Cities"

     As I was watching ESPN's Baseball analyst Peter Gammons, the second  homeliest man in the United States next to ESPN's football analyst John Clayton, I had mixed emotions concerning the MLB franchise cut down. In truth, I feel every major sport would benefit via a franchise cut down. Would anyone really miss the Tampa Bay Lightning? The chance of the Memphis Grizzlies becoming a household name is the same as Adam Rich becoming an impact player on NBC's 'Must see T.V.' It just won't happen.

     With regards to MLB, what saddens me are the apparent teams who will soon be disbanded. I have no argument with Montreal Expos. Since the  ill-fated strike season, the Expos have been doomed. Unfortunately, attendance in Montreal has been ridiculously low. Lately, going to an Expos' game strangely reminds me of attending an REO Speedwagon concert in Oneonta, N.Y. There were more people on stage than off. My heart is truly 
saddened by what appears to be vanishing franchise number two: the Minnesota Twins. 
 

     I understand that the Twins are only behind the Expos when it comes to overall profit, and this decision to disband is truly based upon money. But I truly feel MLB is making a terrible decision if they decide to 
relinquish this franchise. If MLB disbands the Twins, they are ignoring the important resource which separates MLB from other team sports: it's history.
     Unlike other franchises, the Minnesota Twins have tradition. This franchise has won two exciting World Series ('87/'91) in recent memory. Both series had terrific pitching performances by Frank "Sweet Music" Viola and Jack Morris who threw one of the best game sevens ever played. They also have had some great players throughout their team history. They've endured the tragic death of rookie sensation Lyman Bostock. This franchise has also had such stars as Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Roy Smal...did I mention Rod Carew?
     If the decision is made to disband this franchise, I'll miss the Twins. They were the perennial underdog franchise who did a lot for their sport. I hope I'm jumping the gun here, but, sadly, I don't think that I am. Some skeptics have said that America is losing it's sense of history. If MLB decides to disband the Minnesota Twins, then maybe it's true. Hey, at least, we still have the Devil Rays.
 

 

 

     As I watched Emmitt Smith become the NFL's second all time rushing leader, I was reminded of something Al Michaels said during the pre-season. During a Cowboys-Raiders game, Michaels said; "If Emmitt does break Walter Payton's record, and if you keep in mind that he's also the all time leader in rushing touchdowns, then you really have to consider placing Emmitt in the top five." 

     Let me repeat:  Al Michaels said you would have to seriously consider putting Emmitt Smith in THE TOP FIVE!!!  Michael's statement was the second most ridiculous comment I've ever heard (I'll get to the first in a minute).  The top five?     
 

     Whether you like Emmitt or not, to simply measure Emmitt by the numbers doesn't do him justice.  Besides the great numbers, the truth is Emmitt Smith was the backbone for one of the NFL's great teams.  He was a leader, played hurt, and played big in big games.  Some critics will say Emmitt benefited from a great line, and others will say Barry Sanders would have broken the 2,000 benchmark several times had he played with Emmitt's offensive line.  Although Sanders was a sure fire big play running back, he was not a run between the tackles type.  

The cold hard truth is Sanders was a smaller back than Smith, and it's no guarantee he would have enjoyed the same longevity.   Let me add one other point.  Is Jerry Rice any less of a receiver because he had both Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing him the ball?  Are Joe Montana and Steve Young lesser quarterbacks because they had a target like Jerry Rice?  Of course not.  The thought is utter nonsense. 

The only remarks more inane than Michaels were the ones made by the "Rev." Jerry Falwell last week which attributed the tragedies of September 11 to the moral decay of American society at the hands gays, lesbians, feminists, and every person who is in favor of abortion.  I think it's safe to say that the "Rev." has established himself as a first ballot lock for the Hall of Clowns.  Falwell's comments were geared towards an image of a pristine America where pornography didn't skyrocket in the 1930's and where even this country, sad but true, found its origin in the bloodshed of those killed in the name of God.  Does 'Manifest Destiny' ring a bell?

   Like Falwell's prejudice, Michael's comments are analogous to the crap that a jumbo elephant leaves behind as the circus leaves town.  Some poor average Joe is left to clean up the mess and get rid of the smell.  So here
it is:  Emmitt at #3 behind Jim Brown and Walter Payton.